Grace’s hollow political win

By Perry Diaz

Sen. Grace Poe holds press conference after SET ruling.

Sen. Grace Poe holds press conference after SET ruling.

As expected, Sen. Mary Grace Poe Llamanzares was spared a debilitating loss in the Senate Electoral Tribunal’s (SET) ruling on the disqualification case against her. On a 5-4 vote, the political body granted Sen. Poe a graceful respite from her troubled past that has been hounding her since she took a quick sprint from the safe haven of obscurity to the high-stakes winner-takes-all game of presidential rugby. With no political organization and no campaign war chest, Grace’s only weapon was her gritty determination to pursue the presidency that her father – the late Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ) – lost in a bitter election that was replete with allegations of electoral fraud. This makes one wonder: Did FPJ’s defeat compel her to seek the presidency regardless of the seemingly insurmountable roadblocks she would encounter along the way?

With no experience in holding an elective position, Grace – on the strength of FPJ’s popularity – ran for a Senate seat in 2013… and won! Not only did she win but won with the most votes among the senatorial candidates. Nobody could explain her meteoric rise. Some even suggested that her “miraculous” ascent to the threshold of political power was an act of providence. And no sooner had she taken her oath of office than people started talking about her running for president.

Although she never admitted any presidential ambitions – perhaps she was thinking it was too early to disclose her future plans – she didn’t discourage people, particularly the media, from talking about it. But there was one major problem confronting her from the get-go: her citizenship.

However, her citizenship was never a problem when she was living in the U.S. In fact she had the best of two worlds; she was a dual Filipino-American citizen. It was a convenience she carried with her, whether she was looking for a state or federal job in the U.S. or visiting her parents or relatives in the Philippines. Yes, it served her well… very well, indeed.

But — oops! – it could be a very big problem if she ran for national office in the Philippines where the Constitution requires those running for President, Vice President or Senator to be a “natural born” Filipino citizen. Because of her status as a “foundling” – a child with no known parents at birth — she might not qualify to run for any of these offices. She had to find a way to go around it; otherwise, she’d be stuck in a desk job pushing pencil for the rest of her life. No way, Jose!

Rule of law vs. status quo

Defeated senatorial candidate Rizalito David.

Defeated senatorial candidate Rizalito David.

In 2013, undeterred by constitutional nuances, Grace ran for Senator. She made a little “white lie” in her Certificate of Candidacy (COC). She declared that she was a “natural-born” Filipino citizen and claimed Fernando Poe Jr. and Susan Roces to be her natural-born parents. With these two iconic movie stars as her parents, she must have believed that nobody would question it. And she was right; nobody from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) questioned it. But one of the defeated senatorial candidates – Rizalito David – questioned it and filed a petition with the SET to disqualify Grace from keeping her Senate seat.

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Sen. Grace Poe.

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Sen. Grace Poe.

Although Grace won the disqualification case against her, the dissenting opinion of the SET Chairman, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, says it all: “There is no dispute that respondent Mary Grace Poe Llamanzares is a Filipino citizen, as she publicly claims to be. However, she has failed to prove that she is a natural-born Filipino citizen and is thus not qualified to sit as Member of the Senate of the Republic of the Philippines pursuant to Section 3, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution.”

It is interesting to note that the two other Supreme Court Justices in the SET, Teresita Leonardo-de Castro and Arturo Brion, together with Sen. Nancy Binay, voted to disqualify Grace. The other five senators in the SET, Vicente Sotto III, Pia Cayetano, Loren Legarda, Cynthia Villar, and Paolo Benigno Aquino IV voted to uphold her. The outcome of the SET vote seems to imply that the SET is divided between proponents (justices) of the rule of law vs. the defenders (politicians) of the status quo.

Criminal charges

Grace Poe's Certificate of Candidacy in 2013.

Grace Poe’s Certificate of Candidacy in 2013.

But no sooner had the SET announced its decision than Rizalito David filed criminal charges against Grace in the Comelec over Grace’s citizenship and residency. David accused Grace of “material misrepresentation” in filing her COC in 2013. He claims “Grace is not a natural-born citizen, had failed to comply with the two-year residency requirement for senatorial candidates, and was ineligible ‘for the office she sought’ in 2013.”

In regard to Grace’s status as a “foundling,” David said that she could not claim or acquire the status of a “natural-born” citizen because the reported circumstances of her birth did not yield any proof with which to conclude “her father or mother is a Filipino citizen, so as to make her a Filipino citizen at birth.”

And here is the stinger: David said Grace became an American citizen in 2001 and reacquired her Filipino citizenship in 2006. “This is in fact null and void because she is not qualified to apply for reacquisition of Filipino citizenship she being not a natural-born Filipino … hence she remained an American, and her domicile remained in the United States of America,” he said.

With Grace making two false statements, David said that she erred in declaring that she was eligible to run for the Senate in 2013. If found guilty, she could face imprisonment of up to six years. Interestingly, there are four other charges filed against Grace in the Comelec. It is also likely that any of these cases could end up in a higher court and/or the Supreme Court. With only six months left to the May 9, 2016 elections, the question is begged: Can Grace extricate herself from this legal maze while avoiding a constitutional crisis?

Game changer

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

Meanwhile, as a result of the SET’s failure to disqualify Grace, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who has been staying away – at arm’s length – from the presidential race had confirmed through his presumptive vice presidential running mate Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano that is a Duterte-Cayetano tandem for the 2016 elections. Duterte also said, “My candidacy for the presidency is now open to a presidential run.”

What changed Duterte’s mind was the recent SET decision in favor of Grace. “(Poe) will be a presumptive President whose citizenship is based on presumption. The highest position is reserved for a true-blue Filipino,” Duterte said. “I cannot accept an American President.”

However, he said he would change his mind if the SET reverses its ruling or Poe shows the public her real mother. “Show me your real mother and I will even campaign for you,” Duterte said.

Cayetano also quoted Duterte as saying: “I can’t allow them to f–k the people and to destroy the Constitution. I respect the SET but the ruling is totally wrong.” “If you disregard the Constitution, that’s just wrong. Because of that he’s [Duterte] running. He’ll no longer allow what’s happening,” he said.

While Sen. Grace Poe might look and sound confident after overcoming the first roadblock on her way to the apex of her political life, the legal roadblocks facing her soon could be insurmountable to a point where “surrender with honor” might be her best option. Indeed, after savoring her first victory – a piece of cake — over the SET disqualification case, it might come to pass that it was nothing more than a hollow political win. What counts is the last hurdle to the finish line. The question is: Would she have the gumption to go all the way to the finish line or would she even reach it?


14 Responses. Have your say.

  1. pat talens says:

    Another well-researched and informative article from Perry.

    I, for one, lost interest in Gace Poe. I can not fathom the Philippines to be led at the highest political spectrum by a foundling and whose core family members not even Filipinos. By all legal reasoning, Grace Poe is not even supposed to be a Philippine Senator.

    Now I am completely flabbergasted who deserves to be the country’s heir to PNoy. I do not support Binay (the Binayan by hooks and crooks and became one of the richest person in poor Philippines). Nor do I agree Roxas is the one, as I validate Roxas the seeming mirror and duplicate of the unsatisfactory PNoy governance. Just observe the wide-ranging socio-economic ills (especially disgusting transportation problems, criminalities, mushrooming poverty, and to include the corruptions and glaringly continuous incompetence in managing disaster stricken millions of people in the almost biblical Yolanda typhoon catastrophy. Billions in pesos donated by Yolanda stricken people remain mired in poverty and in condition of hopelessness.

    Providing the greatest hope and positive change in Philippine landscape is Senator Trillanes as I view him a forthright, courageous, patriotic political leader. But I am disappointed he is not running for President.

    Hence, I view the Duterte suprise decision to run for President a positive political news in the Philippines. I do not complain, but I root for Duterte-Cayetano team for the Filipinos who need more than a good President, but a strong, courageous, forthright transformative Presidential team.

    And I do not agree Grace Poe is the answer for the Philippines, now.

  2. Don Lino says:

    When ‘Blabbermouth’ DUTETENG screams, “Come to my city you (Drug Punks) & PAPATAYIN KO KAYO
    ( I will kill you ) ! IS THAT CONSTITUTIONAL? Tsk Tsk !
    A ‘Hoodlum’ ! In fact, ex-DOJ Secy condemns DUTETENG playing DIRTY HARRY !

    Now, If DUTETENG cannot accept an American President, I wonder where was he all this time !?
    Hello EDCA !

    Filipinos, as a general rule, have no problem with AMERICA ! They won’t settle for a HOODLUM as President ! Grace Poe will be fine !

    • Jose Samilin says:

      Mr. Don Lino, you could always bring lawsuit against Duterte if you have something to hook up that complain otherwise that’s nothing, won’t stand the final test in court. If the DOJ did not pursue her case, would you want to do it now? Duterte have assured your freedom to do it.

  3. pat talens says:

    Once again the country is about to undergo another Presidential election—a political event that shall determine not only who will be the next occupant and master in the Malacanang Palace, but who will be the next ruler upon whom rests the destiny of the country for the next 6 years and beyond. Around the world, especially in Asia, the Philippines is a butt of jokes. A dangerous country, a corrupt state are some disparaging narratives about the country abroad. This election is thus the more important as it is for Filipinos to elect someone who must inspire the people and implement wide ranging socio-political changes to make amends to all these negating, nauseating Philippine narratives.

    I may surmise this election must be no ordinary election in which a no ordinary politician be elected President of the Philippines. Traditional politicians have been in the political arena for too long, yet the continuous worsening social, economic, and peace-and-order climate speaks volume about them. It is time Filipinos wake up and look for a no ordinary political President. And here I think, not of Binay, Roxas, and Santiago, but of Davao mayor Duterte. Placed in political limelight, Duterte can be a very courageous, imposing, dominating figure capable of advancing his ideas and political interests in serving his people. He reminds of the late Lee Kuan Yeu (looks like him anyway)—a very imposing, domineering, but highly revered world-wide Singaporean political leader who transformed Singapore as one of Asia’s wealthiest but least corrupt states. Unlike many political (but corrupt) leaders, Duterte is not an ideal champion politician who can speak in bombastic, pompous words—but rather he makes himself a formidable politician in meaningful deeds and actions.

    Senator Cayetano is a welcoming added political asset as Vice President, as he can boost and further mold Mayor Duterte’s political strength to achieve patriotic, transformative goals for the Philippines—as President.

  4. Ernesto Gange says:

    Why not test the DNA of Susan Roces, after all, Grace Poe claimed in her birth certificate, that, she is the child of Fernando Poe Jr. and Susan Roces. Since the two DNA test from the Militars of Iloilo City did not match with Grace’s, therefore, Susan’s DNA, will provide the answer, that, she is a natural born Filipino citizen, therefore, she will be allowed to run for the highest office of the land.

    • Jose Samilin says:

      Even without DNA Grace Poe is legally a child of Susan and Fernando Poe Jr. because she is legally adopted called “adopted child.” She has no right to the office as short of being natural-born Filipino citizen child of the couple, So DNA won’t work.

      • philip says:

        The DNA tests should be among Grace, Bongbong and Cheryl. Once and for all, she should stomach the truth. I know Filipinos will not hold it against her if she is a bastard with good lineage and they might even be sympathetic. I think it is Susan who is against this because she does not want to be embarrassed by hiding the truth for so long.

        • Bobby Bagos says:

          Our kababayans will have no problem accepting her regardless of what the DNA results are. Just look at the bastard son of Erap, he’s a former mayor, a congressman and now a senator. One thing to remember about kababayans back home, they will shit if there’s lettuce around it.

  5. Albert says:

    sadly, i no longer believe in our electoral system where the unschooled, popular & moneyed candidates win.
    Perry Diaz always give us an insight of our political arena with accurate facts, the candidate on question like that of Sen. Grace Poe.
    my last electoral participation was in 1980 win the APO macoy hand picked an opponent in the person of retired Gen. Alejo Santos. the proceeding election did not interest me at all especially with the so called DAGDAG BAWAS popularized by the hello Garci controversy.
    finally, i will give a try after 36 long years to participate and even campaign for the candidate who will for me deserved to be elected in local & national elections.
    God bless the Philippines. And once again thank you Perry Diaz for an excellent article as always.

  6. Sluggo Rigor says:

    Mayor Digong! He can clean up a lot of mess created by incompetents and scalawags in gov’t. If we want to clean up a dirty mess built up over years of abuse and neglect, we need a cleansing agent much stronger than ordinary soap! Our poor homeland needs a strongman in this era of terrorism, unaddressed poverty, corruption, crime spreading all over…wow! And the wheels of justice hardly move. Whatever happened to the massacre of journalists and innocent people years ago in Mindanao?! Ano na ba ang nangyayari sa ating homeland, Cousin Perry?

    • perry says:

      Hi cousin Sluggo. Our Inang Bayan has gone to the dogs. And they’re rabid, too. Like they say, “Mga asong ulol.”

      As for the Maguindanao massacre, the presiding judge, Judge Solis, is rumored to be kicked upstairs to the Court of Appeals. Good for her. But the problem is whoever is going to take over the case will have to read volumes of testimonies and thousands of evidences.


      • Bobby Bagos says:

        So in layman’s term Mr. Diaz, the victims and their families will never see justice. This case will drag on forever and the remaining witnesses will more likely be six feet under by the time the newly appointed judge will even have the chance to review all the court documents. Your assessment that our country had gone to the dogs is too lenient to say the least, our Inang Bayan at the present time is bobbing up and down in a very deep poso negro with very little hope of coming out of it.

  7. Guy Camacho says:

    Grace Poe Masked her Foundling Status thru a Bogus Birth Certificate
    Can Poe’s camp explain why Jesusa S Poe fabricated Grace’s ‘new’ birth certificate, dated May 4, 2006, when in fact Grace’s original birth certificate dated November 29, 1968 was available?
    Is it not obvious that the purpose of this ‘new’ birth certificate was to mask the fact that Grace was a foundling, which was so indicated in the Original Birth Certificate?
    If Grace’s birth status as a foundling were so indicated to the Bureau of Immigration, would she have been eligible to ‘re-acquire’ Filipino citizenship under RA 9225, considering that the RA 9225 only covers those who were ‘natural born citizens’? [Note Grace’s ‘re-acquisition’ of her Filipino citizenship was approved by the B.I. on July 18, 2006 which explains the timing proximity of this ‘new’ birth certificate on May 4, 2006.]
    Is it not reasonable to suspect that Grace was so informed beforehand by her legal advisers that her status as a ‘foundling’ was questionable as to being considered a ‘natural born citizen’? Which brings home the point that Grace was so aware ever since that being a ‘foundling’ she was not vested with the full political rights as those who are natural born citizens, and so she had to make it appear that she was reacquiring her Filipino citizenship via RA 9225, as if she were a ‘natural born citizen’, when in fact she was not.
    Considering that the ‘new’ birth certificate purports that Jesusa Sonora and Ronald Allan Poe were the ‘mother’ and ‘father’, were married, did not mention ‘adoption’ to qualify, and the fact that Jesusa S Poe, herself, is the informant one can conclude that this certificate is questionably bogus. Yet it was affirmed and approved by the NSO. The SET should summon the NSO Head to explain!
    The question begs again, how come Grace Poe did not submit her Original Birth Certificate, dated November 29, 1968 in her application to ‘re-acquire’ Filipino citizenship? Was it because on it was printed “FOUNDLING” which was obvious to the reader?
    If the original birth certificate were submitted to the Bureau of Immigration, would Grace’s re-acquisition of Filipino citizenship have been approved under RA 9225? Obviously not, or very unlikely – that’s why Grace Poe Llamanzares resorted to fabricating this bogus ‘new’ birth certificate, with her adopted mother, as the informant. Which puts the two – the informant and the beneficiary, as co-principals in the possible crime of falsification of public documents, with the signatories of NSO, as their willing accomplices.
    Since the birth certificate prepared by informant Jesusa Sonora, purporting that Grace is her natural child with Ronald Allan Poe by marriage is a blatant falsehood – then would this bogus ‘new’ birth certificate be deemed a Poisonous Tree, in the same context as evidence which is illegally obtained?
    Subsequently would the its derivative fruits of legal documents emanating therefrom be also considered poisonous? Namely – her Acquisition of Filipino Citizenship, her 2013 Certificate of Candidacy for Senator, and her Certificate of Candidacy for President?
    It logically follows – any document which carries the presumption of Grace’s purported claim of being natural born from that bogus ‘new’ birth certificate – is not valid.

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